the chinese government makes another move to tighten its grip on disputed islands in southeast asia. chinese leaders are looking at the map of asia and looking at ways to assert their control over what they consider theirs. recently they made a change to their country's passports suggesting disputed islands in the south china sea belong to china. now they're threatening to crack down on foreign ships that enter waters around those islands. analysts see the decision as part of efforts by china to reinforce its claim to the territory. leaders in vietnam and the philippines argue the islands lie within their borders. but the state-run xinhua news agency reports officials in hainan province issued an ordinance banning foreign ships from stopping in chinese unclaimed waters in the south china sea without permission. the ordinance also prohibits crews aboard those ships from landing on islands in the area. and it stipulates chinese authorities can search any
vessels and detain crew members if the ban is violated. the directive also calls on chinese officials to set up police offices on the islands and launch patrols in the area. leaders in the philippines and vietnam have been pushing to resolve the south china sea issue peacefully. but they're pushing back against china's recent moves. the philippine government is the latest to take action over those new chinese passports. it says a dotted line on maps in the passports makes the disputed islands appear as if they belong to china. the chinese government began issuing the passports in may. philippine officials now say they will not stamp visas in the passports. customs agents with will instead approve visas in separate application forms. philippine foreign ministry representatives say the new rules are aimed at avoiding any suggestion they acknowledge china's claim to the territory. other neighboring countries have also reacted sharply to the chinese passport map.
vietnam and india have taken similar countermeasures. the waters around the disputed islands in the south china sea are believed to hold large reserves of oil and natural gas. china's rise. wealth, power and problems. an income gap divides its people. pollution threatens their health. and disputed seas strains relations with neighbors. find out the problems china faces on "newsline." south korean leaders are looking to their counterparts in china to put pressure on north korea. a top envoy from the south is visiting beijing amid signs beonyang may soon attempt another missile long. lim sung-nam is the chief negotiate over pyongyang's nuclear problem.
he'll meet with officials including the chair of the six-partyalks on the north korean program. he'll likely ask china to persuade the north to skrapt launch. u.s. analysts said recent satellite photos said pyongyang may fire another missile. north korean military leaders launched what they called a satellite from the same pace in april. western intelligence analysts said the device, which crashed, was a long-range missile. people at a japanese electronics company are interested in strength ning their renewable energy department. ai uchida from the business desk joins us now. >> i want to tell you specifically about rechargeable batteries or storage batteries. they're use envelope households during pow area outages, they're useful to drivers who use them in place of gasoline. the people at nec in japan understand that this is a growing and important market. the japanese electronics firm will join the bidding for a
bankrupt u.s. company making storage batteries. nec officials say they want to buy the failed batterymaker a 1, 2, 3 systems. the u.s. firm filed for bankruptcy protection last month. it will be up for auction in early december. sources say nec could end up paying more than $120 million to buy the company. storage batteries are a key headlight in building smart grids, the next generation in network power. smart grids are considered essential to promoting renewable energy such as polar power. demand for these batteries is expected to right globally. they provide backup in the event of power out ans due to weathe and other factors. the u.s. central bank says the country's economic activity is expanding at a measured pace, but worries are rising about the so-called fiscal cliff. the federal reserve released its latest beige book economic report on wednesday.
the document is based on surveys of businesses. it's compiled by 12 federal bank districts. it mentions weaker conditions in new york and some other districts hit by hurricane sandy late october despite a moderate improvement overall. on consumer spending, most districts saw an increase at a moderate pace and they also gave mostly upbeat expectations for the holiday sales season. on housing, the report says the market continued to improve across most districts. selling prices were steady or rising. on employment, over half the districts reported improvements. but in manufacturing, 7 of the 12 districts reported that activity slowed or declined somewhat compared to the previous report. on the tokyo foreign exchange, the dollar is gaining ground against the yen this morning. dollar/yen is fetching 82.04-08 at the moment. analysts say concerns over the u.s. economic outlook eased slightly after u.s. president barack obama and a top
republican in congress hinted they were optimistic about a deal over the so-called fiscal cliff. the euro is edging higher against the yen and that's changing hands at 106.24-26. let's take a look at stocks now. tokyo share prices are edging higher as concerns about the u.s. economy are receding. the nikkei average at 9371, a gain of .7% from wednesday's close. export-related issues, including automakers, are leading the market advance. and taking a look at other markets open in the asia-pacific, we're seeing south korea's kospi trading higher by .9%, 1929. and in australia, the benchmark index is trading higher by .4%, 4465. we'll see where china takes us in the next hour. countries around the world are accelerating moves to solidify trade relations. among them, japan and the european union are seeking an economic partnership. but france's trade minister says
yeahn pa will have to meet certain conditions before that happens. eu trade ministers will begin discussions on thursday on whether to approve the start of negotiations with japan for an economic partnership agreement. japan would have to agree to review the trade pact if french imports of japanese autos soared. she also said japan is protecting its public works sector as well as railroads and farming. she said france will strongly urge that japan open its market. the european commission is coming to the rescue of four ailing spanish banks. it has agreed to bail out the banks as part of a $48 billion plan. the deal will be painful and will include layoffs and branch closures. the commission accepted rehabilitation plans submitted by bankia and three other spanish banks hit hard by the regional credit crisis. the banks will be obliged to streamline management.
the biggest of them, bankia, could see its workforce reduced by 30% or some 6,000 employees by 2015. the spanish government asked the eu for help in june to help increase the capital bases of banks affected by the collapse of the country's real estate bubble. eu officials agreed on a rescue package totaling about $120 billion. that's the latest in business for this hour. i'll leave you with a check on markets.
scientists are raising the alarm over another source of global warming. the threat comes from permafrost, a layer of soil that remains frozen throughout the year. scientists say the layer is melting, releasing greenhouse gases trapped in the ice. >> observations indicate the permafrost has already begun to thaw. >> the lead author of the latest u.n. report is kevin schaffer. he gave a briefing in doha, qatar, on the sidelines of the u.n. conference on climate change. the authors say permafrost contains huge amounts of carbon in the form of frozen organic matter. their estimate is 1,700 gigatons, twice the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere. permafrost covers a quarter of the northern hemisphere including large parts of siberia and canada. the report says it could release as much as 135 gigatons of co2 by the end of the century.
it warns of radical changes in ecosystems and costly damage to human infrastructure as well. >> permafrost tends to be hard and very durable, but when it thaws the ice turns to water and permafrost gets soft and infrastructure built on top of it can collapse. >> the report comes as delegates from around the world negotiate ways to reduce greenhouse gases at the conference. the scientists warn emissions from permafrost could start in the next few decades. youngsters are at the climate talks to warn about the impact of global warming around the planet. >> youth from around the world gathered together and discussed what is happening already. >> the 30 young people staged an event at comp 18 wednesday to help raise awareness of climate change. they pinpointed natural disasters and abnormal weather phenomena on a map. global warming is believed to be the cause. a student from the u.s. state of
new jersey reported on superstorm sandy that hit the country's east coast last month. >> no one in the community has ever seen a storm of this magnitude before. climatologists have already confirmed the intensity of the storm was due to climate change. >> a student from nepal said eroding mountains in his country are a sign the climate is changing. the participants expressed hope that comp 18 will come up with effective measures to deal with the problem. the amazon rain forest has long acted as a sponge for greenhouse gases. scientists warn deforestation is jeopardizing that process. that's prompted better conservation efforts and it seems those efforts are paying off. brazilian officials say deforestation in the amazon has slowed to its lowest rate since 1988, when they first started keeping records. new satellite images show about
4,600 square kilometers of forest disappeared during the year through july. that marks a fourth consecutive annual slow-down. the amazon's tropical rain forest helps curb global warming by absorbing huge amounts of carbon dioxide. the brazilian government has been trying to protect it by cracking down on illegal logging and slash and burn agricultural development. japanese police and prosecutors are building their case against a woman they say was the mastermind behind a kidnapping, torture and murder ring. investigators say mioko sumida preyed on people close to her, that she was responsible for keeping them confined and physically abused and orchestrated as many as nine deaths. prosecutors indicted her tuesday on the charge of dumping a body of a man in the sea. police found the body in a concrete-filled drum in the waters off okayama prefecture. investigators suspect sumida, who is 64, kept the man confined
in her condominium in a city in hiogo prefecture and she orchesated his abusend death. prosecutors have indicted sumida's husband, sister-in-law, and sons. investigators say victims were held in her condo against their will, deprived of food and water and physically abused before they died. in most cases they say relatives of the victims were the ones who carried out the abuse. police have found five bodies. they believe four other people who are listed as missing are connected to this case and likely dead. investigators say sumida's crimes could date back a decade. during that time, citizens and police had warning signs. but they didn't act. lax law enforcement is partially to blame, but so is the japanese tendency to respect privacy. earlier, gene otani spoke with nhk world's reporter covering this story. >> you have been following the case. how did this case come to light? >> yes, gene.
it first came up a year ago when a woman fled to a police station and said she'd been kidnapped and held against her will. since then the police have found dead bodies in diffent pts of western japan. investigators say sumida was the mastermind behind the death. here's how they say it all worked. sumida's family would somehow brainwash or control members of different families. those individuals would be encouraged to help her keep their own relatives confined against their will. and then they would abuse those relatives. some of those individuals have also been indicted. police say the alleged victims were forced to borrow money and give it to sumida. altogether they believe she received about $500,000. but they don't know if money was the only motive. many questions remain unanswered. >> okay. one other question. if sumida and others are responsible for these crimes as
police and prosecutors see, how did they get away without noticing anything or anyone? >> that's right. it's actually hard to grasp. given the number of families that were involved, the fact that sumida's condo is located in a residential part of the prefecture, we're talking about an urban area, not a remote town in the countryside. sumida is believed to have confined and abused people there for more than ten years. neighbors have noticed something wrong on a number of occasions. in some cases they saw sumida take her alleged victims out to dinner and witnesses noticed bruises on their faces. some of those alleged victims escaped. but police say sumida or her associates tracked them down and kidnapped them again. we know people witnessed some scenes. but there are no confirmed cases of anyone reporting what they saw to investigators.
the police are also facing questions over their inaction. a victim borrowed money from her family to give to sumida. the police conducted interviews in that case, but they didn't launch a formal investigation. they have started an internal investigation to figure out what went wrong. >> you talked earlier about the privacy issues in japan. >> uh-huh. >> and how people tend to stay away from other people's business. what would be behind this lax attitude of citizens as well as authorities? >> gene, it's common in urban japan not to get involved in other people's lives out of respect for their privacy. there's a cultural reason for this. now the fact is increase in nuclear families, extended families living together or close to each other, are becoming a thing of the past. as for police, the affair could be characterized as a big case of domestic violence. japanese police have a tradition of not interfering in domestic
affairs. the data backs this up. take child abuse for example, children of welfare centers dealt with about 50,000 cases in 2010. the police handled fewer than 400 of them that year. japanese police have been changing their attitude, but overall they're still cautious about intervening in domestic issues. i spoke with a prosecutor who deals th domestic violce. he says the sumida case is one of the most odd in japan's criminal history. but he says in general, the basic perception in the japanese judicial system is that not all law applied to household. he said it's time for society and the judicial system to change so potential crimes can be prevented both outside and inside home.
residents of a city in central japan have taken part in an annual ritual. they held a festival to pray and give thanks for a good harvest. >> reporter: they call it rising dragon. and the dragon carries messages to the heavens. the residents of fujieda hold this festival every other year at the end of october. they make the 20-meter missiles by hand. and they compete to make the most dazzling launch. but there's more to the festival than fireworks.
as the rockets soar toward heaven, some people recite their personal messages. children take part. like the students of this local elementary school. they began practicing a month before the festival. and who better to teach them than this man. he has been reciting messages for 35 years. >> translator: you don't just sing and you just don't read. you have to put your feelings into it.
>> reporter: the children muse about the messages they want the missiles to carry to heaven. every one of the children wants to be a reader. to get into top form, some even practice during recess. >> translator: it's my last year in elementary school, so i wanted to try it. >> translator: my older brother and sister both did it. it made me want to read messages, too. >> reporter: the day of the festival is here. eight children are to read their messages.
>> reporter: bh young and old cherish the festival. and the passion is passed down from one generation to the next. people in southern italy are dealing with stormy conditions. a tornado has hit the region. mai shoji from the weather desk tells us more. >> yes, a couple of low-pressure systems that are very well developed over the central mediterranean sea. you can see this cloud formation. this is creating some severe weather across the region. we have a video coming out from southern italy. let's take a look at this. take a look at this freak
tornado. it hit europe's largest steel plant in taranto in the south of italy on wednesday. the twister brought down a chimney stack and damaged a warehouse and a lighthouse. one person is reportedly missing with some two dozen injured. the intense storm which spawned the tornado continues to swirl over the central and western mediterranean on thursday. let's pull back and show you what's happening here in europe. now, these couple of storms are still in similar regions as you can see. and the isobars really close to each other. it's going to be very gusty. damaging winds, hail, thunderstorms on the severe side, these are all going to be on top, and even tornadic activity cannot be ruled out. this will be continuing for your overnight hours. this is just about now as we speak. and now finally it will be tapering off toward central europe. this other system will move in, too. but yet again another round of stormy weather to come for you on your thursday. ahead of this system, stagnant air and radiational cooling.
all this is creating some foggy conditions. temperature-wise, bucharest, we're looking at 19 degrees. pretty warm, but the humid flow will be also creating those foggy conditions. and out toward the west, things are really cold. london, we're looking only at 6 degrees for your high. paris at 7 degrees. we actually have yellow alert for ice in much of the uk widely posted across the region. madrid only looking at 8 degrees. in fact, we saw snow in spain yesterday. now, let's move over to the asian continent. you can see another rain cloud forming over northern japan. badly hit again as we speak this morning we're looking at this low pressure system over north of hokkaido with this sagging cold front passing through the region leaving behind the wintry pressure pattern that is strengthening. so gusts of 100 kilometers per hour are likely in the next 24 hours which will be picking up those waves as much as five meters high. also snow.
we already have a report about 70 centimeters in aomori prefecture. which is in the western flank of northern japan. ongoing snow conditions could trigger avalanche. and blizzard conditions in hokkaido. this is still on tap for you this morning. things will be tapering off, but a very short break due to this other system moving in from southern japan. and will be creating some wet and windy conditions even toward central japan into this evening hours. this is due to the stationary front that is still lingering across the similar regions here in southeastern china. ongoing story with that heavy rain. i feel like a broken record, but 50 to 100 millimeters will continue to impact in the next 24 hours in gaung dong provinces. take your eye out here toward the water over the pacific. this is tropical storm bofa. we've been tracking it. it's going to intensify into a severe tropical storm status in
the next 24 hours. and it is likely to become a strong typhoon status as it moves toward palau and in toward the philippines into your early week. and it is going to be creating really rainfall accumulation that could trigger flooding. th is due to the temperature as you can see staying in the 30s in the tropics hence the development of that strong system. here's your extended forecast.
here's a new development. closing the gap between science fiction and science fact. a giant robot made its debut in tokyo. people can control it either by sitting inside or with a smartphone. the four meter tall robot appeared at a media event at the national museum of emerging science of innovation. a group of artists and robot engineers spent two years developing it. an operator in the cockpit can manipulate the robot's fingers using a special kind of glove. developer and artist koguro
kurata says he worked on the giant creation as a hobby. >> translator: if you are inspired to make something similar to this, please do so without hesitation. it can even be a self-assembly model. >> the robot will be on display in the museum through december 10th. that's all for this edition of "newsline." i'm catherine kobayashi in tokyo. we'll